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Oct 27, 12:49 PM EDT

UK Jury finds British doctor was killed 'unlawfully' while in prison in Syria

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LONDON (AP) -- The family of a British doctor who died last year in a Syrian prison claimed vindication Monday after a jury determined that he had been unlawfully killed.

The case involves the death of 32-year-old orthopedic surgeon Abbas Khan in December, after he was taken into custody by Syrian authorities.

Following a two-week hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the jury ruled that Khan had been intentionally killed without justification. His family has long claimed he was murdered.

Syrian officials had maintained, however, that Khan had hanged himself in his prison cell.

Chief Coroner Peter Thornton said Khan had traveled to Syria to use his medical skill to help people there during the country's civil war.

There was no evidence presented during the hearing indicating that Khan had traveled to Syria to join forces with rebels fighting to remove the government of President Bashar Assad.

The dead man's brother, Alfroze Khan, said the family has "always maintained that he was mistreated, maltreated and tortured by the Syrian authorities and that he was murdered by the Syrians."

"Today our position as a family has been vindicated completely," he said.

Foreign Office Middle East specialist Tobias Ellwood called the killing "yet another example of the brutal nature of the Syrian regime, which has killed thousands of innocent civilians."

He said the Syrian government had refused to allow British diplomats access to Khan while he was in prison.

Lawyer Michael Mansfield, representing the Khan family, said the case should now go to the International Criminal Court for further action.

"What this jury has done is uncover the truth - that it was never suicide," he said.

In a letter to Khan's grieving mother last December, British Prime Minister David Cameron called Khan's death "a sickening and appalling tragedy" and said the Syrian regime had to answer for it.

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